Motorcycle History: The Southend, British Wall Of Death

Southend Wall Of Death Image Credit: Pinterest
Southend Wall Of Death
Image Credit: Pinterest

The first Wall of Death in the British Isles appeared in Southend during June 1929 at the Kursaal Amusement Park, one of the world’s very first amusement parks, and featured motorcycles on a 20 ft wooden wall. The Wall Of Death was a carnival sideshow, which featured a silo (or barrel-shaped) wooden cylinder, ranging from 20 to 36 feet in diameter, and was made of wooden planks. Inside such a structure, motorcyclists would travel along the vertical wall and perform stunts, only to be held in place by friction and centrifugal force. Today, we’re sharing video with you from the past, of a female motorcyclist performing stunts at the Southend Wall Of Death, and it is wild!

The first riders on the Southend Wall of Death were husband and wife team, Billy and Marjorie Ward. They had previously been touring with the show in South Africa, before performing in Southend. In the UK, Kursaal and George ‘Tornado’ Smith became synonymous with the sideshow, and by the mid-1930s, there were 50 more shows touring the counties. Riders like Arthur Brannon included riding sidecars with animals on board – he rode with a lioness! Unfortunately, the events of WWII put a temporary end to of the shows, though a few were restarted shortly after the war.

Similar structures exist all over the world, including one right in the USA – in New York City, NY. Watch video of a female motorcycle stunt performer on the Southend Wall of Death below, and tell us in the comments if as a rider, you’d attempt such a feat! Can you imagine being able to stay on a wall while on your motorcycle? Does it just blow your mind to see how much motorcycles have changed over the decades?

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Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot
Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot